Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 1/17/13
Everyone knew the Cavaliers would lose. Portland had entered Wednesday having dropped three straight, was playing at home, and is in front of the Cavs when the idea is young and up-and-coming teams. The Trail Blazers are fighting for the playoffs. The Cavs are fighting for well, continued development. Final score: Cavs 93, Blazers 88 in another semi-nail-biter at the famed Rose Garden. And guess what? The Cavs (10-31) have won six times in 25 road games. That may not sound like much, but its better than their 4-12 record at home. But the bottom line in the Cavs previous two outings is they have given GM Chris Grant and coach Byron Scott what theyre seeking. Thats right, this young team displayed (heres that word again) progress. In the process, Kyrie Irving (31 points) was the best player on the floor. Two nights ago in a loss at Sacramento, it was Dion Waiters. He scored 33 in that game, but struggled mightily (1-for-9 shooting) against the Blazers. Neither development should be a cause for drama or reason to get overly excited. After all, Irving is the best player on the floor a lot of times. And Waiters is still a rookie. These are your Cavs, people. They lose close games, they fail to show up and get blown out, they win when the media and fans have completely given up. All of that is to be expected. Whats not always expected, but whats become more of a reality, is that this Tristan Thompson kid is getting pretty doggone good. The second-year power forward finished with 19 points, 14 rebounds and tons of enthusiasm. Remember when Thompson always got his dunks blocked? Remember when he couldnt come close on that little hook shot in the lane? Remember when we all thought he couldnt score 19 points if left alone in the gym with crickets as the only defenders? Yeah, Im having a hard time remembering that myself. Thats not to say its time to start mailing in Thompsons name for the All-Star ballot. Hes got a ways to go and he knows it. But its not nearly as far of a ways as it was even four weeks ago. There were a few other signs of hope in this -- including the Cavs defense. While getting killed inside, theyve been forcing 19 turnovers a night on this trip through the Western Conference. Well, guess how many the Blazers commited? Yep, 19. Again, the Blazers (20-19) are a nice team with some real maturing talent of their own. But one of those guys is rookie point guard Damian Lillard, and he didnt score a field goal (or get many good looks at the basket) until the fourth quarter. The Cavs defense isnt typically very strong, but it sure was for the majority of this one. And yes, that included the physical inside play of Thompson and rookie center Tyler Zeller (11 points, nine rebounds). Both refused to back down from the Blazers athletic and sturdy frontcourt of forward LaMarcus Aldridge (15 points, 13 boards) and former Cavs center J.J. Hickson (13 and 11, respectively). Or how about C.J. Miles? Hes mostly viewed as a guy who probably got a new rim every Christmas, as Miles usually shoots first, second and third, and doesnt ask questions later. But thats what the Cavs want from him. The fact he took a couple of charges and kept his man from getting open on the perimeter when it mattered were merely bonuses. Not to be forgotten was the all-around hustle of Alonzo Gee (nine points, three steals) or even veteran Luke Walton in reserve. Walton can take some funky jumpers that clang off the rim, but you cant overlook the fact he keeps things under control. His seven points equaled what was manufactured by the entire Blazers bench. So the Cavs made it happen for a night, finally finishing the job after building a 17-point lead in the first half. Its not about winning, its about taking positive steps. But, hey, what do you know? On Wednesday, the Cavs did both. Twitter: @SamAmicoFSO
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